Golden State Warriors: How Will Mark Jackson Do as a First-Time Head Coach?

Nathaniel JueSenior Writer IIDecember 2, 2011

Mark Jackson is entering his first season as an NBA head coach
Mark Jackson is entering his first season as an NBA head coachRonald Martinez/Getty Images

With the NBA having been entrenched in a struggle of power and negotiations for nearly five months, Golden State Warriors fans haven’t really had the opportunity to stew the tough questions regarding their team.

Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry are still slated to be the starting back court for another season. Free-agent big men will continue to be on the Warriors’ radar in potential trade opportunities.

But, most importantly, is new head coach Mark Jackson able to guide the team to where it wants to be—the playoffs?

Jackson was hired by the Warriors back in June, before the NBA work stoppage. This is his first head coaching gig, having spent the better part of his time after his 17-year NBA career working as a basketball color commentator and analyst.

Given his inexperience to his new job, Jackson was hindered by the inability to rightfully introduce and acclimate himself to his team and instruct a full training camp period.

Now, like all teams, the Warriors are playing catch-up and attempting to adopt the new principles of a first-year head coach—again.

Last season was Keith Smart’s first opportunity as a full-time head coach, as well. For a team that is still quite young (no member of the current roster is over 28 years old), it’s been somewhat of a whirlwind to experience the head coaching turnstile of the NBA.

But for a squad that is bursting at the seams to win and an organization in dire need of prolonged success, it’s more imperative to learn quickly and acclimate to the blueprint of yet another head coach and his philosophies.

Although this will be Jackson’s first NBA head coaching job, his professional résumé is not unfamiliar to Warriors players, many of whom grew up watching the former All-Star point guard in his heyday.

Unfortunately, Jackson’s brand of basketball, which centers on playing team defense, is not something Warriors are friendly with. When it comes to the defensive side of basketball, Jackson, a licensed pastor, is definitely not preaching to the choir in Golden State.

Can Jackson’s way work with the Warriors? Will his promise of building a defensive-minded unit come to fruition? After all, it’s easy to say all of the things that people want to hear—which is basically the opposite of what has not worked for so very long.

We’re gonna play defense. We’ll have a post game. We should acquire a big man.

Duh. Shoot, if Jackson said he’d lobby to lower beer prices, Golden State fans would gladly vote him as mayor of Oakland.

But will he deliver? Sadly, the odds are not in his favor, and therefore, his dream outcome is not in the cards. At least, not with this roster. With the diminutive starting backcourt of Ellis and Curry, taller opposing guards dominate the outside.

The Warriors’ postmen are not like Karl Malone-type mail deliverers; rather, they are like Newman from Seinfeld—lazily substandard at what they do.

The frontcourt of center Andris Biedrins and forwards Dorell Wright and David Lee does not scare the Western Conference, which is laden with big men.

Biedrins has his moments, but he is continually among the league leaders in personal fouls committed (his lack of offense does not offset his defensive lapses). Lee and Wright are both wrong, defensively.

So, how will Jackson magically make a break-neck offensive Warriors team play some D?

Ultimately, management will have to swap out some players and bring in personnel more equipped for the style of play Jackson envisions.

The Warriors’ have overhauled their front office during the past two years, including acquiring new ownership, a new general manager and a new consultant—the venerable Jerry West. Though it’s unlikely a deal will develop in the shortened preseason of 2011, it’s possible that the Warriors will look in the short term for a formidable big man (rumors have swirled regarding Nene and Tyson Chandler).

Sadly, with an abbreviated schedule and less time to prepare, the sun may not shine on Golden State this season.

Defense is the side of the ball—the schemes and repetitions—that is less innate in players. Either they have it or they don’t. Defense is a skill set that is more honed, rather than introduced.

True, it’s not impossible to become an adequate defender later in one’s career, but it will not likely happen with the squad the Warriors currently employ.

It is with optimism that Golden State will improve defensively this year. However, as the old adage goes, when you’re near the bottom, there’s not really anywhere else to go but up.

With training camp opening on Dec. 9, the Warriors have only 16 days to get their act together for the upcoming shortened season opener.

Welcome to the world of an NBA head coach, Mark Jackson.